Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Food insecurity in the US

A week before Thanksgiving, the USDA released its latest report on US food insecurity. For the nation as a whole, food insecurity in 2008 was higher than in 2007 (no surprise), up to about 15%. For families with children, 20% reported that at least at some point during the year they were hungry but didn't eat because they couldn't afford to. That's rather higher than the unemployment rate, including households where someone is employed, but cannot earn enough for the family.

This increase is noticeably bad compared both to past levels and where the government pledged we would be. As seen in the accompanying graph measuring food insecurity from 1994-2007, this is the highest food insecurity we have had in 15 years. The US government had pledged to reduce hunger to half of its 1990 level by 2015 in the Rome World Food Summit, and pledged again to reduce hunger by half by 2010 in the Healthy People 2010 plan. The difference between where we are and where we said we'd be is more than 100% of the goal.

These results mirror what has been happening globally: the number of people suffering from hunger decreased between 1991-1996, but has been increasing since and more sharply since the food price increases after 2005. Presumably, the price decreases last year have helped to unwind much of that, but there seems to be no way that most of the world will meet either the World Food Summit or Millennium Development Goal for hunger.

Hat tip: Parke Wilde.

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